Written by: Dr. Krista Sherman, Senior Scientist, PIMS
It doesn’t matter whether they are small or big — parrotfish are some of the most colourful, interesting, and valuable marine species. The atypical “beaklike” teeth and vibrant colours of these fish probably contributed to their common name. Thirteen different parrotfish species have been documented in The Bahamas and eleven of these are commonly observed on coral reefs.
Parrotfish act as grazers – removing algae from reefs and some also remove pieces of coral skeletons, which get excreted as sand. Protecting these herbivores from threats that would reduce their populations is critical for maintaining healthy coral reefs, which provide food, coastal protection and other resources.
Above: Princess parrotfish (Scarus taeniopterus)
Assessing the distribution, diversity, abundance and habitat use of parrotfish are important for coral reef conservation and to provide input for managing fishing pressure on their populations. This has become more of an issue due to the decline of popular predatory reef fish such as groupers and snappers. The Perry Institute for Marine Science (PIMS) has undertaken three projects to:
1) Investigate small scale movement patterns within the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
2) Evaluate the impact of parrotfish harvest on reef health
3) Advocate for their conservation.
Above: Striped parrotfish (Scarus iseri)
Above: Stoplight (Sparisoma viride), redband (Sparisoma aurofrenatum) and queen (Scarus vetula) parrotfish grazing.
Above: Redband parrotfish (S. aurofrenatum) swimming across a transect line.
PROTECT OUR PARROTFISH POSTER
PIMS recently partnered with Friends of the Environment and Dawn Witherington to develop a parrotfish poster to share some of the species typically found on reefs and their role in promoting healthy reef habitats.
Click here to download the poster.
To learn more about our parrotfish work and other projects at PIMS visit www.perryinstittue.org.